Top 20 Favorite Anime

A long time ago, I did a post where I discussed my top 15 favorite anime series.  However, now that it’s been a few years, and I have become more familiar with more series, and have rewatched some of the ones on my list previously, my opinions have changed somewhat.  So now I am going to put out the definitive list.  Here are the top 20 favorite anime that I have.

20. Black Lagoon
What do you get when you combine an 80’s action hero, Studio Madhouse action, and one of the most dark and violent gunplay styles ever made?  You get this series.  Telling the story of a band of mercs for hire – the Lagoon Company.  This series has some of the best dub work of all time.  It has violent shootouts, insane villains, and absolutely zero subtlety.  It’s like someone wanted to bring the 80’s out of its hiding place and put it in the 21st century.  With an amazing cast of characters, all of whom are complete scumbags, you have a series that is morally gray in the extreme, and too much fun to watch.  I miss this style of cinema, but anime is keeping the flame alive.

19. Rahxephon
After the success of Evangelion and what a cultural icon it became, there were a TON of imitators out there.  Most of them never even went past the line of derivative, with people seeing them for the schlock that they are.  However, then you get series like this one.  Which took the formula for Eva and actually went further with it.  In fact, I would say that it perfected it.  A show about aliens who look like us, machines that are golems made of stone, and a focus on music and the power of sound, this was a very grim series that I would argue was better than the series it was riffing on, in more ways than one.  Were it not for the ending which is kind of dull, this show would be able to easily stack up to the more famous predecessor.  But quality animation, a fantastic score, and really good voice acting makes this series shine.

18. Darker Than Black (Season 1)
Another series where the second season just royally fucked the quality, this series was about darkness all around.  In a world where some nameless calamity has stuck the Earth and imprisoned it under a cloud that has stars symbolizing people with special powers, our tale follows a clandestine group who does dirty work for a shady organization who is exploiting those individuals.  Action that keeps you pumped, dark subject matter, and a kind of grotesque nature keeps you guessing.  This series is cold, but for at least the first season you can see where it’s coming from.

17. Digimon Tamers
Given how this franchise had been so light-hearted by comparison, this series in the franchise took a decidedly darker turn.  For a marketing vehicle, this iteration of the franchise was meta, had complicated characters who you like, and took some incredibly dark turns that as a child I was in love with, and as an adult I still can sit down and watch and feel very moved by.  How a show this dark was able to get onto a children’s cartoon block is beyond me, but I am glad that it is, because there is nothing like it.  Whether it is just for the nostalgia, or to just enjoy a children’s show that wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, it still holds up to this day.

16. Samurai Champloo
What do you get when you take the creator of one of the greatest anime ever made, add in hip-hop, and enough meta to make Deadpool proud?  You get this series, of course.  A stylistic, badass and overall too fun series about a bunch of travelers, I love this show so much.  It’s not complicated.  This is entirely style over substance.  But that style is just so damn cool!  The creator of Cowboy Bebop comes back to tell a story about three travelers in the Edo Period of Japan, trying to find a Samurai who “smells of sunflowers.”  From the awesome sword-fights to the fantastic voice-work in English, nothing about this series doesn’t stick with me.  Sure, there are some episodes which just die, but overall it is still a ton of fun to watch.  Steve Blum steals the show as Mugen, but the rest are still so cool.  If you can handle some history-twisting, this series is for you.

15. Gundam Wing
I am dying to know when FUNimation is going to re-release this series, now that they have  the Bandai licenses.  Here’s hoping they don’t do a shitty redub of it.  The voicework in this series is classic.  Telling the story of five youths who head down to Earth to get revenge for the murder of a leader of the Colonies, along with strike back at the clandestine Organization of the Zodiac, Gundam Wing is all about big robots and big battles.  But more than that, it looks at ideas about war, the nature of good and evil, and how the changing tides of history can leave people behind.  This series is classic, and while the animation hasn’t aged as well as you’d think, it still is pretty awesome.  I’ll admit that my nostalgia goggles are on pretty tight for this.  It is the first series that I watched as a kid that got me into anime.  But I still love it, and in my opinion it holds up to this day as a gateway series into anime.  Seriously, though, FUNimation, don’t do a redub of this.  It can only suck.

14. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
When I watch this series, the whole time I think about what life was like growing up.  But more than that, this series does something that so few stories about growing up does – feels real.  When I see the grungy basements that the band is playing it, I feel like I am there.  I feel like I could watch these shows and hear these instruments.  It tells the story of a young man who is lost growing up, and just so happens to run into the lead guitarist of a band.  From there begins a story of growing up, music, and the hardships that come from knowing that youth is temporary.  Were it not for a totally forced plot later about a mobster which had no reason to be in there, this series would have been nigh-perfect.  But I still feel each string of the instruments when I watch it to this day.

13. Baccano
What do you get when you combine a total lack of chronological order, supernatural powers, and the backdrop of early 1900’s gang warfare?  You get a show that is so damn fun to watch!  This series is a marvel.  It’s a marvel how such an unapologetically violent series can exist but be so fun to watch.  This series is brutal.  You have dismemberment, a gleeful enjoyment of murder, and characters who are pretty much all terrible people but you love all the same due to how deliciously evil they all are.  It tells the story of a train massacre, along with a drug war that goes on because of a substance that grants people immortal life.  Between the phenomenal acting in the dub, and the cool style that it has, this series isn’t about the narrative.  It’s about the crazy ride aboard a train that you can’t look away from for one second.

12. Outlaw Star
Some series are substance over style.  Others are style over substance.  Outlaw Star, on the other hand, is nothing but style and not a lick of substance to be found anywhere.  But dear god is it cool!  Gene Starwind finds himself going from a do any dirty job business owner to a starship captain outlaw who has a mysterious vessel and a mysterious woman who can pilot it in his care.  What this show lacks if any form of substantive elements it makes up in some of the most fun that a series has ever had with its premise.  This is science fiction escapism at its best.  This show knows exactly what it is and doesn’t shy away from it.  Hell, it embraces what it is, and does nothing but have fun with that every step of the way.  If you like all the trimmings of a space adventure story (no joke, they don’t miss a single beat), you need to watch this anime.

11. Vision of Escaflowne
First off, let me say, FUNimation – shame on you for making a redub version of this series.  If you hadn’t have included the original version in the blu-ray, I would be hunting you down.  The redubbed version is just bad, no matter how you scratch it.  A series that also retreads ground that we have seen before, but damn if it isn’t all the execution.  The story of Escaflowne is as predictable as it gets.  You have a girl taken to a mysterious world, who ends up becoming involved in a greater plot that involves fantasy elements in a world with animal people and fighting robots.  Original as my pizza pops idea, but as I said, all in the execution.  This series is incredible to watch!  From the gorgeous visuals, to the fantastic voice-work, it has it all.  Not to mention the soundtrack, which is so damn beautiful.  You know exactly where it will go from beginning to end, but each step of getting there is worth it.  Just wish the ending to the series wasn’t as flat as it is.  I guess they meant for it to go further, but ran out of budget.  Oh well.

10. FLCL
This series is one that I saw when I was much younger, but when I rediscovered it as an adult, it grew on me so much.  The best coming-of-age anime that I have ever seen, this short series tells the story of a young man who is dissatisfied with life, but has his boring days broken when a woman on a vespa with a guitar smashes him over the head and nothing in his life is the same.  While this series does play with elements of eldritch horror and mecha anime, at its core it is about our young hero and his issues with growing up.  He is a lonely kid, and I see so much of my own struggles growing up in him.  Plus, it looks at the problems associated with sex, love, and emotional honesty in a way that feels mature.  The guy who made it studied under the creator of Evangelion, but I would argue that this series does complex emotions better, simply because they capture what it’s like to be a kid better.  If you saw this when you were younger, check it out again and see what you think.

9. Death Note
One of the most widely-known anime series, Death Note tells the story of a man’s rise to power.  Light Yagami is a bored high school genius, who one day happens to come across a notebook dropped from a death god called the Death Note.  He then goes from a soon to be lawyer to little Hitler and he fights to remake the world in his image.  This series has zero subtlety.  None.  But dear god is it fun!  The game of cat-and-mouse between Light and L is too much fun to watch.  Too bad that the entire conflict just dies after that point, up until the very end of the series.  Looking back on it now, I don’t have the same love for this series that I do for others on the list, but it is still an incredible show that has one of the best dramatic arcs to follow.  At least for the first 25 episodes.

8. Wolf’s Rain
This series is probably the most thematically dense of any of the anime on this list.  This is a cold and cryptic series that fuses religious allegory with bitter tragedy.  It tells the story of a young pack of wolves, on their journey to find Paradise, all while the world is slowly descending into chaos and the end of everything is near.  Between the truly incredible visuals, the voice acting that is at the top of its class, and one of the most gripping tragedies ever told, this series will make you cry, think, and question all at the same time.  It isn’t for everyone, as the material is dense and there is virtually no exposition to let you know what is going on.  However, if narrative rich in symbolism and with a lore that you have to pay attention to in order to figure out is your game, then check it out.

7. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
I find it so weird that the most true to the original story version of this series is done in an anime set 3,000 years in the future.  That is just so strange to me.  It follows a young man named Albert, who comes into the acquaintance of a mysterious Count.  What follows is a tangled web of lies, manipulation, and a revenge story that will keep you hooked.  But not only that, it also has a style that is all its own.  This series animation is strange, to say the least.  But that strangeness is what sets it apart.  The style in it fits so perfectly.  This series is almost impossible to analyze, because it is nearly perfect.  Were it not for how bad the last two episodes are, I would almost call it a perfect anime.  Some flaws, but too much fun.  Not to mention having a villain who is just so awesome.

6. Stein’s Gate
When time travel, fate, and the changing of reality collide, you get Stein’s Gate.  Telling the story of a young man and his band of misfits who stumble upon the ability to change time, a young man learns the true price of changing reality, and what it takes to set things right.  So much of what I love about this series centers around the main character.  A lot of people see it as a gripping thriller about time travel, and that is true, but that isn’t what keeps me loving this series the way that I do.  Every single one of these characters all feel like people I could know and love, but as I said, it’s not what keeps me coming back.  The real reason that I love this series the way I do is the character of Okarine.  His anti-social nature and awkwardness in the face of life and the hardships he comes across resonate so much with me.  His fight to be a good friend all while battling his own awkwardness feel so true to me.  Not to mention the fact that he lives in his own head, desperately trying to make sense of it all.  It’s a cold story, but seeing how far he will go to save his best friend hits me right in the heart.

5. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
A lot of people have made comparisons between this series and Death Note, and while I do see those, I believe that this is the better series.  Why?  All because of the main character.  The story goes that Lelouch is a disaffected youth living in the occupied nation of Japan.  He has no thoughts about life and is looking to strike back at the Holy Britannian Empire who he blames for ruining his life and crippling his sister.  As fate would have it, he gets his shot when a mysterious woman gives him the power of Geass.  Now it’s a battle of wits to destroy the people he hates, and manipulate the world on his ultimate chess board, that grows bigger and bigger with every battle.  Light is an interesting character, but his corruption is ridiculously immediate.  Lelouch, on the other hand, is one we can watch grow and slowly become turned by his own power.  To the point that he has to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring about total peace.

4. Mushi Shi
Anyone who knows me knows that my first love is animation.  I love to watch animation that has quality and a look all its own.  It’s why I love the film Bambi to this day, even if it is cutesy to a sickening degree.  The animation is a step above.  To that end, this series is much the same.  Telling the tales of the wandering Mushi Master Ginko, this series is just so peaceful.  It’s kind of like a lullaby.  I can watch this series anytime that I need to just feel better about my day, and it works wonders.  But dear Groj, the animation!  This series is a visual marvel.  Each episode seems to play around with a different style, and man do I love it for that.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist (Original)
I honestly don’t think much of Brotherhood, so I’ll head that off.  But the original series is a brilliant character study into the Elric Brothers, and their tragic tale of trying to get their bodies back.  This series is nearly a flawless tragedy.  Telling the story of two brothers and how their quest to get their own lives back destroys the lives of countless people around them.  This series is a near-perfect character study.  Edward and his brother are so likeable, which makes the fact that they are doing irreparable harm to the lives of everyone around them that much worse.  This series is also almost perfect, save for the ending.  I am one of the few people who calls bullshit on that ending.  How does sacrificing memory for Al’s life even make sense.  This series would have been a perfect tragedy if it ended with Al giving his life, and Edward realizing that in the end, he has to accept that some things cannot come back, and he has to move forward with his life.  But it is still a transcendent anime that is another perfect gateway series.

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
How America was able to create an anime this good is beyond me.  This series did something that few anime have done before – transcended the gap between kids show and adult.  This series is incredible.  There isn’t a single bad episode.  There isn’t a single wasted character.  There isn’t a single frame that doesn’t fit in one way or another.  When you learn the insane amount of research that went into this little masterpiece, then you realize that anime can be more than just a niche market.  The story of Aang and his journey to learn the four elements and save the world combines incredible animation, lovable characters, and so much fantastic story-telling in all the best ways.  I honestly can say that this series is perfect.  Right down to the ending, it gets everything right.  For those wondering what I think of its sequel series, then it can be boiled down to this – Season 1 and 3 are amazing, while 2 and 4 go from terrible to boring.

And my favorite anime is…

1. Cowboy Bebop
Everyone and their brother has said about how awesome this series is.  Most people will call me a sheep for loving it the way that I do.  But so be it.  This series is perfect.  From the very beginning where you see Spike going to what is likely his doom in order to escape his life in the mob, the end of the first episode that sets up the tragic nature of the series.  Taking elements from tons of genres and blending them all together, this series cannot be defined by any one genre.  The story of the Bebop and its crew of misfits goes from pensive look at tragic characters, to beautiful elements of action set-piece, all of which are set to the best music that anime has ever or will ever have.  This series is astounding.  People sing its praises, but you know what, it’s earned that.  No series has ever done it like this, and I doubt another series ever will.

So, what are your favorite anime?  Let me know down in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’m just in a dream that I can’t wake up from.” – Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick

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2013-2014 Academic Year in Review

Well, we come to the end of another academic year.  Unlike the last time, we’re not writing this while moving out of the dorms.  We already have moved out.  Got a new apartment and are sitting with the roomy, listening to “Afro-American Symphony.”  We had one hell of a buzz going on after a nice day that abruptly came to a close after we found out that we were passed over for a promotion by someone who hasn’t been at this job for nearly as long as I have.  I’m the most senior member, and I get done like this.  Gotta love these fucking jobs.  But enough of that.  We have a lot of ground to cover.

Solar Eclipse, New MexicoComing on the heels of the worst academic year we’ve ever had, following the events that went down with Emily, we didn’t want to come back to the college for another year of shit.  For two years, we have been burned out of college and education in general.  It’s become so much more trouble than it’s worth.  And we get to leave here with over $50,000 in debt.  God bless America,right?  But, whatever.  Fuck it.  We don’t care anymore.  Let’s just get this shit done and move on.

However, when we got here, it wasn’t what we were expecting.  In fact, if there is one word we can give to describe this academic year, it would be – boring.  For real, it’s been an entire year, and all the interesting stuff happens right at the end.  Wait, that was the way it was last year too.  Weird coincidink, that.  Though I’m not surprised it was boring.  With all but one of my friends no longer anywhere near where we are anymore, and nobody who really went out of their way to talk to me, since it seems that the bulk of my friends don’t reply to texts or IMs on Facebook.  With nobody to talk to and only schoolwork and job work to do, as last spring, my pursuit of a good story occupied most of my attention.  When you don’t have much else going for you, you fill your time with whatever you can.  Bless the Internet.  It is a great tool for distracting one’s attention.

I also skipped class WAY more than I should have.  For real, there were points where it was getting kind of nuts.  Was kind of worse about that this spring.  I just didn’t care.  It didn’t help that I had a new friend who I was spending an increasing amount of time with.  Her and I clicked so much more than I would have thought possible.  Girl has been an interesting conundrum to me.  She’s married, but we have recently helped her figure out she’s gay.  She’s planning on staying with her husband and be faithful.  They’re having a kid together.  How she reconciles that with being gay is something to watch, assuming we ever speak again.  See, her husband views me as a threat, so she hasn’t been able to see me outside of work.  We work at the same place.  During the fall semester, we hung out outside of work all the time.  Spring comes around and she goes out of her way to dodge the issue.  Since she never, and I do mean never, responds to texts or messages, way I see it, since she has moved on from this job, the chances that we are going to have a long-lasting friendship continue is less than menial.  It’s almost non-existent.  I’m kind of used to disappointment by now, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Winter Beach, by Greg MartinSo, first semester, fuck-all happens of any real significance.  We get home for Christmas break and we actually get to enjoy ourselves again, for a time.  We got to cook and bake and make the most of our talents.  Wish we could have enjoyed Christmas more, but I’m afraid the childish part of me that loved that holiday has passed on.  It may never come back.  I was actually debating with my sister whether or not we should go to the Christmas Eve festivities, I was that bored by the idea.  I got to send some of my culinary creations down my dear friend from last year who I got to rescue.  She loved them so much that she lamented being depleted of them the moment consumption was completed.  That’s the best kind of review one can get, if you ask me.

We get back to the college and this semester has been just as dull as the last one.  For real, the days faded into this haze where the only thing that separated one from another was whether or not I went to work.  It was a lonely time.  Gave me a lot of moments to think.  I thought about Emily.  I think about her a lot.  I don’t like to admit how much I miss her.  I loved and still love her.  She threw me and my feelings in the trash after stepping on them, yet we still miss her.  She was one of the few people I ever loved.  Losing her the way I did, it was horrible.  Not gonna rehash that.

There was one thing of significance that happened – I came across a piece of paper at work.  There were extensive notes written about it.  The topics were extensive.  There were several things listed about female sexual arousal and how it can be induced.  Some of it appeared romantic, but then I came across something more disturbing – a list of natural compounds.  Since there were notes about getting women intimately aroused, I thought that this followed the same lines.  I looked into some of these things, and a darker purpose became clear to me.  Some of these compounds were mild sedatives.  This person was looking to date-rape someone.  There were notes about who that person is that really got to me.  It touched me in a personal way, because of the first person I genuinely fell in love with.  I told her recently, after someone else found out.  I hadn’t wanted to, but it was unavoidable.  The person that this monster wanted to get with, it made me think of her, and I couldn’t breathe.  There was a story a long time ago, something I stopped, for the better, but it was still intense.

Shiny ForestThings have been looking better, however.  A newer and the dearest friend we have recently has gotten an apartment with me.  The story behind what got us there isn’t something you need to know, but suffice it to say, it was complicated.  Still kind of is, actually.  It’s unfolding, with me going out of my way to be the better person.  There are days, increasing in number, where I wish I wasn’t.  I want to be the bastard that my nature is demanding.  To just give in to my desires and take what I want.  It would be so much easier.  But hey, we’re not that bad.

So, we’re at the new apartment, with “Blade Runner” playing in the background (moved on from what we were listening to before) and didn’t get the job.  Shit and bricks, I guess.  I’m so tired.  I dream of a far-off place.  A sunny forest that I could curl up in and sleep.  Or a beach with the sound of the ocean helping me drift off to sleep.  That sounds pretty freakin’ nice.  I’m so fucking tired, and sleep gives me no rest.  For the day to come when I can get that special sleep, and live in my dreams again.

Until next time, a quote,

“I’m not scared.  Of anything.  Not even the thought of dying scares me.  Since I’ve been born, death’s been nipping at my heels.  It’s as if my very birth had somehow called it there.”  -Kiba, Wolf’s Rain

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Wolf’s Rain

Wolf's RainOne of my favorite anime of all time is the series Wolf’s Rain.  The brilliantly-told tragic story about a group of the last Wolves, trying in vain to reach Paradise.  It is a poignant and heart-breakingly sad tale of loss, loneliness and the cost of living.  However, unlike most shows, this one is very divisive.  People either love or hate it.  The reason they love or hate it is because this is a show that demands a lot of the viewer’s attention.  See, there is almost no exposition.  You have to really be paying attention if you want to know some of the plot’s more important details, such as the divinity of the Wolves, the alchemy of the Nobles or what Paradise truly is and how one gets there.  It also doesn’t spell out the relationships, such as Hubb and Cher and how their marriage fell apart.  This series doesn’t hold your hand, and that is part of the reason it is so good.  I actually treats the audience like a grown-up, letting you realize things on your own.

The series is an allegory to several religious tales.  I went into it not knowing all the religions that were being represented, which was fine.  The series was good enough to keep my attention, even if I didn’t realize the symbolism of what the divinity of the Wolves and the use of Kiba to open a gate to the Noble’s Paradise meant.  The allegory is so heavy in this series that there are few plot points that don’t have some history with it.  It’s actually rather amazing how they got this to work, given how such a concept could have crashed and burned.  The writers of this series knew that they couldn’t take the approach that so many filmmakers did and try and force the symbolism down our throats.  The narrative came first, and whether or not you cared about the symbolism was up to you.  You could contemplate it on your own.  Again, they treated us like grown-ups.

But the reason that I love this series as much as I do is because of the Wolves.  Their journey and self-discovery is so beautiful, but tragic at the same time.  The Wolves are considered extinct, following a brutal and ruthless slaughter of their kind by the Nobles.  The Nobles were afraid of them because they Book of the Moon told of them opening the way to Paradise when the world was coming to an end.  Doing so would finish the destruction of the world.  After almost all of their kind were destroyed, the Wolves learned to use their magic to hide in plain sight, appearing as the humans are.

The pack that travels with Kiba (the unofficial leader of their pack) all have harsh background, with each of them trying to run away from their pasts.  From Hige’s collar to Tsume’s scar or Toboe’s bracelets, each of them has something that marks them and shows their past.  The way that each of them is forced to confront it is brutal and sometimes heart-breaking.  The ambiguity of Kiba’s past makes him a kind of mystic of the group.  The savior metaphors for this character are not out of place.  He very much is a spiritual entity.  It is him that convinces them to follow him.  The lack of marking on Kiba seems to show that he is uncorrupted by the cruel world that the Wolves live in.  The pack that they run into in the factory town is also marked.  Being marked is something that almost every Wolf they run into is.  That is just one of the subtle little symbols that I just love about the series.

The part that has stuck with me the most, however, is following the destruction of Darcia’s castle.  Kiba ends up in the grip of a plant that puts whatever comes near it into a coma, showing them exactly what they want as it slowly consumes whatever gets too close.  When he awakens, Kiba is in what he believes to be Paradise.  With him is a young woman who is not a Wolf, but something else.  A kind of giant cat.  She says that she is there to be with him, and that they can be there forever.  For a time, Kiba looks like he is willing to accept this beautiful place.  It is peaceful and happy, unlike the painful world he has had to exist in up until now.  That touches me very personally because I am much like the Wolves.  I go through life, trying to find something better.  Their idea of Paradise sounds pretty damn good.  All I really want out of life is a sunny place where I don’t have to constantly worry about the future.  A place where I can just live.  A place where I don’t have to drown myself in the pursuit of a good story so that I don’t have to wake up crying in the middle of the night, desperately wanting things to get better and for me not to be a poor kid who has so little hope for things to come.  When Kiba is ripped from that world and doesn’t want to go, part of me wonders if I could have left.  Part of me would have wanted to stay there forever.

Wolf’s Rain is a tragedy.  It is one of the best tragedies I have ever seen.  In a world where everyone seems to want stories that have sunshine being blown up their ass, seeing a story that isn’t afraid to make you cry and to hurt you inside is kind of refreshing.  However, like I said, it isn’t for everyone.  Some people can’t gravitate toward it, and even though I am a judgmental douche who complains when people don’t like the stuff that I like as much as I do, I can kind of get why.  Still, if you think you would like it, and haven’t seen it, you really should.  You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time, a quote,

“They say there’s no such place as paradise.  Even if you search to the ends of the Earth, There’s nothing there.  No matter how far you walk, it’s always the same road.  It just goes on and on.  But in spite of that, why am I so driven to find it?  I hear someone’s voice, calling to me.”  -Kiba, Wolf’s Rain

Peace out,

Maverick

My Idea of Paradise

Listening to the soundtrack of one of the greatest shows ever made, I got to thinking about a concept.  Now, I am not a religious person.  All of that is just desert fairytales to me, which are believed by ignorant people who want the world to be a far more simple place than it actually is.  But, even though I don’t buy into that, I got to thinking – what would paradise be, to me?  One of the reasons that I hate the end of Wolf’s Rain (the series whose soundtrack I am listening to) so much is that you never see Paradise, which is where the wolves were trying to go.  It was hinted in a dream sequence what it is, but I didn’t get to see it, and I wanted to.  But I am just nit-picking about that.

The idea behind this series is that a group of wolves (who are unofficially a pack) are trying to do what all wolves instinctively know to do in this series – look for Paradise.  What Paradise is, as I said before, is never fully explained, and you never see it.  It is hinted at, but you never are fully aware of what it is.  So, this got me to thinking – is Paradise whatever one wants it to be?  If that is the case, then what is my image of Paradise?  What would Paradise be to me?  Well, I have sat down and really thought about what my image of Paradise would be.  Here is the best explanation I can offer.

For one thing, I would have there be a sense of flowing time.  I wouldn’t want just one season.  Stagnation bores me to tears.  I like change, when the change is fun.  Specifically, I want the seasons to change.  I acknowledge the beauty of all seasons.  My only problem with winter is that the snow gets on the road and makes driving rather dangerous.  Take that away, and I am happy as a squirrel with its acorns.  But yeah, there would be seasons, and the seasons would turn as seasons do.  I want to be able to feel the cool autumn breeze blowing leaves in my face.  I want to be able to feel the gentle touch of a snowflake on my face as it comes down in the winter.  I want to run through the fields of summer and hear the gravel under my feet.  I want the beauty of all the seasons.

Nature would be the thing I surround myself with.  The human world has ruined nature in such a large way.  There would still be a place of technology and humanity, but it would be defined and separate from this place of nature.  Unspoiled beauty, where the wind blows free, and there are no chemicals which have made the world poisonous.  No poisons of man, no pain of death that comes with human activity.  The world of man would be content with what it had, not wanting to constantly destroy in order to make more for themselves.  Such a mature outlook, and one that humanity will never embrace, because greed has consumed this culture.

But speaking of the world of humans, it would be a place of endless growth.  People there would want to expand the potential, and make the world better, for everyone.  They would want to better themselves.  The drive to constantly outdo each other in the expanding of human consciousness and technology would drive great change.  Mankind would have reached the stars by that point, wanting to leave the bonds of this world and let it be nature once more, and to expand beyond here, to see just how far this species can go from this world.  There would be a sea of lights in this place.  To see it from the air, it would be a large lake of stars.  Water would flow freely through the streets, since the people here don’t want to intrude on land.  It is a giant metropolis built over the water, so that the land doesn’t have to be hurt, and the creatures there can live free.  Though people do often go there, and explore it, wanting to learn the secrets of its beauty as much as they can.

They have made their own artificial forest in their vast metropolis.  The never-ending pursuit of knowledge has led the people of this place to try and find better ways to grow things, and to interact better with the world.  In this forest, artificially-made animals roam.  They are allowed to grow and to flourish here, as if it were a real forest.  The pursuit of science and knowledge makes everyone curious to see how they interact.  People travel this forest where the trees glow with artificial light and bridges span it, letting mankind have a part of nature they made, where they can control it, and not hurt the outside world.

Back to that place of nature, there are forests of trees where the light can only get through as beams, and the creatures run free, living out their days as animals are want to do.  There are Wolves who run through.  I am among them.  Like the wolves of Wolf’s Rain, I go from human to Wolf whenever I want to go to the human world.  I have a pack that I have started.  It is made up of the people closest to me.  We all go running through the fields.  We lie out in the sun, playing and letting our cares float away.  In the winter, we run through the snow, chasing down our prey and while things are harder, we still are able to find those good moments.  Standing on high cliffs, watching the sun rise above a valley, painting the white land in gorgeous golden colors.  We would make the most of all our days, never wanting any more.  When we get bored, we mingle among the human world, taking in their endless creations, watching how far they have come.  It is truly amazing.

My pack-mates and I will sometimes sit out in the beach, listening to the waves as the moonlight shines over the water, and the boats which the people use to explore the world are coming in.  Their lights turn the calm ocean’s surface into a sea of stars.

There are storms, of course.  When those come, my pack and I hide inside of a cave.  We wait out the storm, tending to one-another.  My mate and I lie at the entrance, making sure that all is well, and so we can tell the others when the storm is over.  My pack-mates play, waiting out the storm.

Can you see it?  I know I can.  I can see it all as if I was really there.  If only I could go.  If only I could show it to you.  Would you go there, with me?  I think you would.

Alas, ’tis never to be. It is not but a dream.  The dream of a man who wishes that the world were a better place, so what he sees in this dream could be real.  Oh, and by the way, check out Wolf’s Rain.  It is an amazing show.  It is so thematically heavy, that I guarantee that you have never seen anything like it before.

Until next time, a quote,

“They say there’s no such place as Paradise. Even if you search to the ends of the Earth, there’s nothing there. No matter how far you walk, it’s always the same road. It just goes on and on. But, in spite of that, why am I so driven to find it? A voice calls to me.  It says, ‘Search for Paradise.'”  -Kiba, Wolf’s Rain

Peace out,

Maverick

Top 15 Anime Series

Now, I’m not talking about the top 15 series ever, just my personal favorites.  I’m not some kind of otaku.  I am a story-seeker.  Wherever I find a good story, I run with it.  And anime has given us some really great stories.  Of course, like with film and books, a lot of what I have seen in junk, but when I do find diamonds in the rough, I am really grateful.  Now, some of the series’ that I have on here are ones that I grew up with, and if I watched them now, I might have a different opinion.  But I doubt it.  I had a pretty good sense of story even when I was younger.  In any case, any of these series’s would be worth checking out.  Hopefully you have!  Enjoy.

15. Outlaw Star
So, there are going to be a few shows on here that are style over substance.  I don’t mind that, so long as the style is cool.  But this series is a little different.  This series has no, and I mean NO, substance at all!  It is entirely style, but for what it is, it is very, very cool.  This is science fiction escapism done right.  The universe is very neat, the characters are all over-the-top, but it is never boring.  The story is almost nothing but vignettes about the adventures of the crew of Outlaw Star, going around the galaxy, trying to find the Galactic Layline.  For real, that is as deep as it gets.  No personal journeys, no great introspection, just kick-ass action and bizarre adventures.  And bless this little show, because it does it just perfectly.  The animation for the series has aged incredibly well, and the universe is all sorts of fun.  Check it out, if you want something that is high on action, low on brains.

14. Digimon Tamers
A series that I saw when I was younger.  I was around 12 when I saw it for the first time.  And man, for a show that was made for kids, I don’t think it is possible for this to have possibly been darker!  For real, for being a kid’s show, there were a LOT of shit-your-pants scary moments in it.  This show dealt with some pretty heavy stuff.  There were the personal insecurities of the characters, which often manifested in the most harsh way possible.  There was the ugliness of what they were doing, deliberately destroying living creatures to make themselves stronger.  Even up to the end, this show never lets up with its subject matter.  And it does so very well.  It is cool when something that is made for kids doesn’t talk down to them.  I think that kids can handle the darker stuff, so long as their is a happy ending.  What makes this series especially interesting, to me at least, is that I don’t actually think it was a happy ending.  It was rather cold, in a lot of ways.  This show isn’t one of my favorites because of great animation or great music, but because of great characters.

13. BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad
I never thought that I would be a big fan of slice-of-life shows.  I mean, why would I want to watch something like real life?  I get to see it enough as-is.  But this show is a total exception to that.  The characters in this show are 100% believable.  This isn’t Disney Channel trying to interpret what being a teenager is like.  This is life experience we can all understand.  I love every minute of this show.  You can feel the strum of the guitar strings as the chords play.  You can smell the dusty basements where the music is playing.  You can identify with the young man as he is trying to find a place that he belongs.  Every single element of this show works, and it works great.  I love it.  I haven’t enjoyed a show like this in a long time.  Now, because it is slice-of-life, this isn’t for everybody.  It doesn’t have a perfectly happy or perfectly unhappy ending.  It is like life – a little good, and a little bad.  And it makes for a masterful show.

12. Baccano!
Whenever people talk about Lost, they make a point about how ridiculously convoluted it all is.  A lot of people have the same thoughts about this series.  To their credit, yeah, this series is REALLY complicated.  It takes more than one run-through to catch everything.  The series tells a whole bunch of stories, all centered around the massacre aboard the train, The Flying Pussyfoot.  This series involves so many characters, so many plot points.  You would think, with how incredibly complicated it is, that it would fall flat on its ass.  But it doesn’t.  This series paces everything so perfectly that even though you may miss some stuff here and there, you will hardly mind.  Every single character, even if you only see them for a scene, plays a part.  You feel like they all have a purpose in the series.  There isn’t a single waste scene, sentence or second of the series.  It is only 13 episodes long, and the creators of the show took advantage of every gory and deliciously odd moment of it.

11. Rahxephon
Man, this is one of those series that is so thematic that one has to sit down and think about it.  There are so many thematic elements at play that it is almost like a study in the subject.  The story tells of a young man named Ayato.  He finds a giant mecha-like golem, and it takes him outside the city of Tokyo, which in this world is its own reality.  It is inside of its own universe.  Outside, Ayato has to do battle with other golems.  Over time, he realizes that reality isn’t as simple as he thought, and that his destiny isn’t as kind as he had hoped.  Everything about this series flows so well.  The music, the visuals, the character growth.  It is very subtle, and very beautiful.  There are a lot of points in this show that don’t make a whole lot of sense, but it is such a pure descent into a fantastical world that you scarcely mind.  It isn’t about the science fiction element, which isn’t the show’s strong point.  This is about questioning reality, and questioning yourself.  What more could one want?

10. Samurai Champloo
Made by the creator of Cowboy Bebop, this series is one of the strangest pieces of historical fiction that I have ever seen.  The benefit of it being completely inaccurate, historically speaking, is that this series knows it.  It is making fun of a whole bunch of time periods and cultures, yet still having not only a cool action story, but also deep characters and some really cool fights.  It is kind of strange how you are having to constantly shift back and forth from not taking this series seriously at all, to finding it almost too serious.  The characters have stories, and like Cowboy Bebop, they all find that by trying to outrun their pasts, they eventually become consumed by them.  This series mixes samurai era with hip-hop style and the same level of good visuals that is to be expected from the creators of Cowboy Bebop.  I will admit that this is a style over substance series, but if that is your gig, you’ll find something to love.  If you don’t take history very seriously, pick it up and enjoy!

9. Gundam Wing
Now, this series has kind of become one of the classic pieces of otaku fanbase, but I am not among them.  Those people creep me out.  I love this series for reasons all my own.  This is a series that gets me because of the story.  The story goes that many years into the future, humanity has started colonizing space.  When a pacifist leader was vying for independence from Earth, the United Earth Sphere Alliance cracked down on them.  Eventually, the colonial leader was assassinated.  Now, many years later, five machines are being sent to Earth, to get revenge.  This series follows the five young pilots in their mission to get revenge.  In the process, they become embroiled in a battle with shifting political sands, different allegiances, and finding that they are not only figuring out the destiny of the stars, but of themselves as well.  The animation for this show wasn’t especially great, but this was more about characters and story.  It has a broad arc, and you never feel bored watching it.  This is a show for a very specific fanbase of sci-fi lovers, but if you are in the mood, and got some popcorn, take a watch.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

Wolf's Rain8. Wolf’s Rain
Alright, I’m just going to level with you – this show is incredible.  Truly, unbelievably incredible.  This anime is probably one of the greatest of all time.  This show is perfect.  Absolutely, utterly perfect.  There is not one thing that was done wrong.  A genuine tragedy about wolves who are searching for paradise, a divorced couple who is caught up in the web of things, a man who has vowed to hunt all wolves to extinction and a noble who has his own nefarious plot, all of which revolves around a young woman called “The Flower Maiden.”  The animation of this series is incredible.  The voice work in English has pretty much every anime all-star voice actor and actress.  It’s an incredible cast.  But the best thing about this show – how smart it is.  This series is an allegory.  The world that it exists in is incredibly complex with a very rich history, however, there is one caveat to that – there is no, and I do mean NO exposition.  All of this history is stuff that you, the audience has to pick up from bits and pieces.  But what makes it better – you don’t have to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to enjoy it.  This series is one that you can enjoy, regardless of if you are aware of the level of depth or not.  If it weren’t for personal preference, this series would be right at the top of this list.  It’s what a great tragedy should be.  It will warm your heart and it will also make you cry.  A lot.  But it is still beautiful.  Take it from me, you won’t be disappointed that you watched it.

7. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – what the hell?  How could an anime about The Count of Monte Cristo possibly be any good?  Well, for a lot of reasons.  The first is that this adaptation, believe it or not, is actually both the most faithful, and the most different adaptation of this story that I have ever seen.  I could go on for hours about that, so I won’t, but it is almost surreal how close to the story it is, even though it is set in a futuristic universe.  But the real selling point for me, aside from the great writing, the great story, and the coldly good acting are the visuals.  This series is a visual mind-fuck.  I don’t think that I have seen anything like it.  Ever.  You can get lost in how they do everything that they possibly can with this series not to make it feel understandable or comfortable.  The use of color, the use of lines, the use of faces and voice, they are all totally bizarre, yet entrancing at the same time.  It’s hard to look away when you are watching, because it is that gorgeous to look at.  But of course, the story is great too, and it is cool to see the story take place from the son of the noble that the Count is trying to get revenge against, rather than from the Count himself.  Like the story, in that regard.  If you’ve never seen the story played out before, I would recommend this version first.

6. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
One thing that I love is a story about intrigue and deception.  This series is rife with that.  Code Geass has been compared to Death Note, another series that you’ll see on this list, but to be honest, I think that they are very different shows.  For one thing, their style is 100% different.  Code Geass is a very traditional anime.  I would say that I don’t think that their animation is anything special, but that’s okay, because the story is very engaging and interesting.  It tells the story of a prince who is hiding out from the totalitarian empire of Britannia, who is gradually taking over the world.  Through sheer chance, Lelouch comes into possession of a Geass.  For each person, this power is different.  In Lelouch’s case, it allows him to be able to make anybody follow a command he gives them, so long as he has direct eye-contact with them.  This allows him to begin his efforts to overthrow Britannia, and to get revenge for his mother, who was murdered, and for his sister, who was mutilated at the same time.  This series isn’t has harsh as Death Note, either.  It is definitely an action series, though it does have some good moments where Lelouch’s brilliant mind gets a chance to shine.  This series has a LOT of really harsh moments, and when the characters shine, they shine brilliantly.  Plus, the cat-and-mouse game never lets up.  Overall, a great story, with some badass action.

5.Mushi Shi
Anybody who knows me knows that I am a HUGE fan of animation.  I think that when it is done well, it can bring a story to life in a way that nothing else can.  It can make a world seem more enriched, and it can make characters feel closer.  Honestly, I think there is more that can be done with animation that live action.  And this series is a perfect example.  I like JesuOtaku’s description – that it is a lullaby.  This show truly does feel like a lullaby.  I could go to sleep watching it.  The stories are quiet, very melodic.  You feel very calm, even when this show has incredibly gory and gripping moments.  It tells the story of spirits called Mushi that live with humans, and there is a special magician who can interact with them.  The animation in this series is perfect.  Were it not for the fact that I don’t just judge this by animation alone, this would be right at the top of my list.  Each episode has a new style, a different way of animating.  It never stop being impressive.  I am consistently feeling like I am diving into an unknown world.  Now, there is the fact that this series has absolutely no, and I mean NO, over-arching plot.  Each episode is a vignette.  This is a show for a person who loves animation.  For real, if you want something that will tease your mind, and dazzle your eyes, this is the show to watch.

4. Death Note
Yeah, you knew it was coming.  I LOVE this series.  I truly don’t think that a single element of this series fell flat.  Except for all the episodes after 25.  Yeah…that got pretty bad.  I won’t spoil it for the 5 people who haven’t seen it, but yeah, it got a lot less exciting.  Up until the last episode, which is so incredibly good that you’ll want to watch it again the moment it is done.  But the premise is simple.  Yagami Light is a lot like Lelouch.  He is a brilliant young student who is profoundly dissatisfied with the state of things.  He sees all the prisoners who get out of jail, not having to pay for their crimes of murder or worse.  He wants to do something about this, but can’t.  Then, by sheer chance, he comes upon the Death Note.  This is a notebook.  With it, he can kill any person, however he pleases, so long as he knows their name and face.  Now, Light is using it to kill the world’s criminals, and create a peaceful utopia with him as the new god, under the assumed identity of “Kira.”  Enter the brilliant detective, L.  L wants to catch Kira, and is willing to do anything to accomplish this.  While he has a very strict sense of right and wrong, L will also do absolutely horrible thing to get Kira, making it a good argument over which of them is the actual monster.  The pacing and characters are brilliant, and the animation is amazing.  The use of light and shadows is just great.  The character models and environment animation is also among the best that I have ever seen.  This series never lets up, and the intensity keeps building and building, right to just the right moment, and explodes in a way you never thought possible.  All up to the very, very bitter end.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist
This series only did one thing wrong – the ending.  Other than that, every aspect was perfect.  For real, it is perfect.  The only reason that it isn’t at the top of my list is because of personal preference.  The story goes that Edward and Alphonse Elric use the power of alchemy (taking one substance and changing it into another) to try and resurrect their dead mother.  Their efforts fail, and Edward loses and arm and a leg, Alphonse loses his entire body.  Now, both of them join the military and become State Alchemists, using their position to try and research the all-powerful Philosopher’s Stone, which they hope will be able to create a new body for Alphonse, and new limbs for Edward.  This is an incredibly tragic series.  It is heart-breaking and sad right up until the very end.  The idea of a tragedy show is incredibly difficult, and this series pulls it off perfectly.  From the very start, you are invested in the struggle of these two boys, who have become involved in something far bigger than themselves, and in the process grow up very fast, and very harshly.  There is also an expansive cast of recurring characters, all of whom have a plot and feel like they are a key part of the story.  The voice acting is top-notch.  This series is on par with a great animated film.  Of course, it is also dark, violent, and very horrific at times, so this isn’t a show for the younger crowd.  But I guarantee that if you like a good story, you won’t be able to stop watching.  Not for two seconds.  And if you are wondering what I thought of the reboot series – Brotherhood.  Well, I’m not a fan.  It was rushed, clearly an action show, and on top of that, there were WAY too many people, none of whom was flushed out enough.  But there is the first, and the best.  Enjoy.

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
I know, why am I putting a kid’s show above Fullmetal Alchemist?  Well, to be honest, this was an incredibly well-done show.  I think that this is like most any of the animated feature films that Disney has done.  It is able to be enjoyed, by both the young and the old.  The story goes that there are four types of elements – Water, Fire, Earth, and Air.  They can be manipulated by “Benders.”  There is one bender, though, above them all – the Avatar.  This person can bend all four kinds, as opposed to only one, which is the way it is for everybody else.  Things were all well and good in this world until the Fire Nation began a campaign to take over the other nations.  Only the Avatar had the power to stop them, and he vanished.  For 100 years.  Now, he has returned.  It is a young Airbender, the last of his kind.  The story picks up from then, when he has returned, on a mission to stop the Fire Nation and restore balance.  It’s a pretty basic plot, but man, it shines in this series.  The characters are all fun and all grow throughout the series.  The bending elements aspect was clearly thought through entirely, as you can clearly say that each style was based on a different form or two of martial arts.  The animation also is great.  It starts out pretty basic, but after a while, it is incredible, outright gorgeous.  The voice-work is top-notch.  All in all, this show may have been made for kids, but it is easily able to be enjoyed by adults.

And my top anime series is –

1. Cowboy Bebop
Don’t accuse me of following trends.  This is one hell of a show.  The premise is that the crew of the Bebop is a bunch of social misfits who are trying to find a way to get by, in a universe that is without law and order.  They work as bounty hunters, ever-working to hunt the elusive paycheck.  Not an easy thing to catch.  But it is the growth of characters in this show that is just amazing.  My favorite is Spike, and not because he is cool or because he can fight.  His outlook on life just marvels me.  He views life as a dream, that he is waiting to wake up from.  All the risks he takes and the tempting of fate that he does is purely so that he can justify his own existence.  Of course, the rest of the cast is great.  So, the characters are great, but what about everything else?  The animation is the best that I have ever seen in any series.  The darkness, the detail at some points, and abstract at others, the noire quality of it, while at the same time the science fiction style, it’s all perfect.  And the music is just great.  Blending western themes with jazzy beats, it is almost a perfect soundtrack, and compliments its universe in the best way.  The reason that this show is so loved is because it is just that good.  I don’t think a single element fell flat.  Except that one episode…Boogie Woogie Feng Shui.  That was the only real time that this show failed.  And it did fail badly, but still.  Overall, this series has perfect music, perfect characters, perfect writing, perfect voice-work, perfect animation.  It is the best that I have ever seen, and I love it to death.

Until next time, a quote,

“Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is a fake because I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye and the present in the other. So, I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture. I felt like I was watching a dream I could never wake up from. Before I knew it, the dream was over.”  -Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop

Peace out,

Maverick